Dealing With Shame

Blog Post by Jed Tomlinson, August 23, 2018

To kick off our Feminist Men Blog Series, we asked Jed to write a piece reflecting on his experience and journey as a feminist. We didn’t put any constraints on the post and let Jed take it in any direction he wished. So here it is, uncensored and unedited: a beautiful and honest response.

When first approached to write this post, I was both thrilled and terrified.  I was excited that Imago was working to include men’s voices in the feminist movement, and I was proud to have been recognized as a feminist.  The more I thought about it, however, the more intimidating the opportunity became.  I mean, regardless of what I wrote, I was sure to receive some kind of backlash and honestly, who wants to hear a CIS white male talk about feminism? I was torn between writing a positive, politically correct piece that would make everyone happy or actually speaking about my experience; an experience that has been positive and yet difficult.

Right now, to speak in sweeping terms, my gender and my race are feeling a lot of shame: for the way things have been, for what we as a group have represented, and for the endless pain, hurt and injustice we have caused.  We are dealing with this shame in many ways.  Some of us are angry and are lashing out and are decrying the perceived injustices now being perpetrated upon us. Others are rethinking their entire lives worth of interactions with women and how they deal with people on a day to day basis.  And some of us are just moving along blindly.  Personally, I have done all three as I continue to try to negotiate my place in this changing world.

Fifteen years ago, in my early 20’s, being a feminist was an easy thing for me. I tried to live my life treating everyone equally with respect and compassion.  I tried to be a “good” person.  And people in my community considered me to be a feminist.  Basically, by not being a dick I was considered a feminist.

As time marched on however, being a feminist became more complicated and more demanding.  The movement itself (or at least the people I was surrounding myself with) picked up steam, became more prominent in the public eye, and many of us finally said “enough”.  Enough of being polite. Enough with not calling people out.  Enough of the status quo.  Instead of being a passive participant, I was now an active participant.  And I realized I had a lot to learn, explore, and unpack.

I have spent several years engaged in conversation with the women in my life (to whom I owe a great deal of gratitude for their patience and teachings) trying to discover how I could best support this movement. What could I do?  What was my role in this fight for equality?  Because I can tell you that I am tired of the expected molds that have been created for men and women.  I am tired of silence and of people being silenced.  Of people living in fear.  Of increasing social, economic, and gendered disparity.  And I am so so very tired of the giant gulf that the patriarchy has created to separate our genders and divide us and make us retreat to our side, and lash out with our side, and fight through our side instead of recognizing that we all belong together.  Because we are all a part of this human experience. And I am tired of the fear. The fear that has been instilled in all of us, based on the belief that loss of power means the loss of safety.  That sharing with someone means less for you.  Because that fear makes us want to hide from others.  To build fences.  To hoard what we have and to win the race towards loneliness.  The patriarchy has successfully divided and conquered.  It has taught us that no one will take care of you so, you must take care of yourself above all others.  It has taught us that strangers are a threat rather than a friend. It has, by instilling desperation, created monsters to remind us that we are unsafe.

But we are tired of the falsehoods.  Many of us are seeing through the looking glass.  And rather than seeing what they want us to see, we are seeing what could be.

And I see it.  And I want it.  For everyone.  Yet at the same time I often feel lost.  I feel uncomfortable. I don’t know where I belong.  Because in my physical form I am the enemy. I can shout until I am blue in the face, but I can’t shake the fact that my vessel is a symbol of oppression.  And I have reaped the rewards of my position. And everything I know is being turned on its head.  And I don’t always know what is allowed and what is acceptable.  And I bite my tongue.  And I let others speak.  And I try to fade into the background to ensure that what I am does not offend.  And I yearn for a time when what I am and what you are can simply be.

Until that time, I will likely feel more moments of discomfort. I will be defensive and at times angry as I relearn the expectations society has of me.  As I shake off the outdated ideas of what men are supposed to be.  And at times I will be excluded from the conversation.  And I will be told by some that this is not my fight. And the heightened reflex to defend against the oppression of misogyny will slap me in the face. And anger me. And I will be misunderstood because I represent the enemy.

But if there is one thing, men, that we have proven time and again, it’s that our gender cannot fix what we have caused.  So, it is our turn. Our turn to feel uncomfortable and unsure of our place. Our turn to share our power. To quiet our voices so that women can be heard. To raise our voices when other men carry out the past. It is our turn to support the people in our lives by being available.  By saying, Yes, I believe in this.  And saying, No, I won’t support what has been.  And, Yes, this is the future we need.   It is our turn to give women the stage and be the warriors of this cause.  To let women lead the charge. And it is time, men, that we use our strength to lift, to raise, to create, rather than to tear down.

And it will be hard, and at times it will be ugly, but let me tell you, it will be worth it.  Because the feminist movement is not asking men to be less.  It is asking for all of us to be more.

 

Jed Tomlinson is a Montreal based Clown, Director, and Teacher. He is the Co-Founder of Sizzle and Spark Productions whose inaugural show The Sama Kutra has enjoyed over 50 performances across the country. After 10 years as a freelance actor, drummer, and theatre artist, Jed began his training in Pochinko clown in 2010 at the Manitoulin Conservatory for Creation and Performance (MCCP), primarily under the tutelage of John Turner of Mump and Smoot. Jed is currently in process with The Screaming Goats Collective and Imago Theatre on a new project Persephone Bound, a multidisciplinary theatre performance that aims to have a conversation with young adults about sexual consent.